Artsy is an online art marketplace. This might sound like a simple engineering problem–you just set up a basic ecommerce site, list some pieces of art, and start making money, right?
The art world is complicated. There are four major pillars: patrons, art fairs, galleries, and auctions. Bringing these different parts online is not trivial. And in order to do so, Artsy has to work with the existing ecosystem. It is not like the taxi industry, where you can aggressively compete against the pre-existing businesses. The art world is built around relationships and trust.
The engineering is hard too. An art auction results in a transaction for millions of dollars. In this way, building an auction system is like building a trading system. Latency needs to be very low, and you can’t make any mistakes or else customers could suffer to the tune of millions of dollars.
Daniel Doubrovkine is the CTO of Artsy, and he joins me to describe the complexities of the art market and the engineering challenges that come with building a software company around it.
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